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US pulls three Patriot anti-missile batteries from Persian Gulf region: Report

The United States has removed at least three Patriot anti-missile batteries from the Persian Gulf region, in a first step under US President Joe Biden to pull the US forces away from the Middle East.

One of the Patriot anti-missile batteries was removed from Saudi Arabia’s Prince Sultan Air Base, which had been put in place in recent years to help protect American forces.

The changes come while Saudi Arabia has been targeted with drone attacks from the Yemeni forces in acts of retaliation against the Saudi war on Yemen.

Other US military capabilities, including an aircraft carrier and surveillance systems, are being diverted from the region to answer military needs elsewhere across the world, the Wall Street Journal quoted US officials as claiming on Thursday.

According to the paper, an anti-ballistic missile defense system known as a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) was also proposed to be removed, but officials said it would remain in the region for now.

At the end of the Trump administration, there were about 50,000 US troops in the region. As a result of the new move, several thousand US troops are expected to leave the region over time.

The US officials said the withdrawal is an effort to further reduce the US posture in the Middle East after decades of military engagement in the region.

The Journal said the changes come while Saudi Arabia endures rocket and drone attacks from inside Yemen.

US reports say American leaders have realized that the kingdom is waging a losing war in Yemen and want Washington to desist from the conflict. 

According to Washington-based conservative defense policy think tank the Jamestown Foundation, “Yemen’s established and emergent elites are more willing than they have been for years to set aside old grievances”.

“The driving force behind these moves to reinvigorate political processes is the recognition that the Houthis (a.k.a. Ansarullah) are not going to be defeated militarily. Thus, the Houthis’ influence and grip on northwest Yemen must be dealt with politically, if it is to be dealt with at all,” it wrote.

Since 2015, outside powers like the UAE and Saudi Arabia, have armed and funded proxies in their battle against Yemen’s resistance forces because they viewed kinetic military action as more expedient than politics. The flow of funds and weapons from foreign powers has helped sustain a war economy and fed the growth of armed factions in Yemen.

In June 2019, the UAE began withdrawing most of its forces from Yemen. Tensions with Saudi Arabia, international fallout from the UAE’s involvement in Yemen, and changing regional dynamics all contributed to the UAE decision. While the UAE remains involved in Yemen as a key supporter of the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC), the country’s leadership has adopted a lower profile role in the war and reduced the amount of money and materiel that it provides.

Also, “Saudi Arabia is keener than ever to extricate itself from its costly involvement in Yemen. Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen has cost the Kingdom several hundred billion dollars (at one point the Saudis were spending five billion dollars per month on their war in Yemen). The war, along with the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, has also done serious damage to international perceptions of Saudi Arabia,” the Jamestown Foundation wrote.

Most critically, the think tank said, the kingdom’s intervention has achieved none of its aims. Ansarullah and its allies are now, more than ever, the preeminent military power in Yemen. At the same time, Ansarullah fighters “who absorbed many of the Yemeni Army’s most capable officers and engineers have further developed their ability to build and launch a range of missiles, rockets, and drones,” it said.

“The Kingdom’s slow realization that it must end its direct involvement in the war along with unfavorable shifts in US foreign policy are driving it to taper support to its proxies in Yemen.”

Yemen’s elites, the foundation said, sense that the country is moving toward a new transitional phase where politics rather than war-making predominate. 

“Recognition that military action will not defeat the Houthis is driving the formation of Yemen’s new political coalitions. If the Houthis cannot be defeated, they have to have a role, and likely a prominent one, in national dialogues or any future national government,” it added. 

In February, Biden formally removed Ansarullah from the list of foreign terrorist organizations, reversing a last-minute designation by former president Donald Trump.

After assuming office, Biden pledged to recalibrate the US-Saudi relationship by taking several steps against Riyadh, including its decision to consider a halt to sale of offensive weapons that the kingdom has used in its six-year war against Yemen.

Biden has also released a declassified intelligence report that said Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the country’s de facto leader, was behind the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

However, the Biden administration said it does not seek to destroy the US-Saudi relationship.

Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen has killed hundreds of thousands of people and destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure.

As a result of the war, Yemeni people are facing malnutrition, hunger and famine, which have increased risks of disease and starvation.

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